One of the conditions that medical cannabis has found to be enormously beneficial for is Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a chronic, debilitating disease of the central nervous system, characterized by its unpredictability. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks myelin (a protective coating around nerve fibers) as if it is a foreign invader. This can result in a number of symptoms, from mild to severe. It is not yet known what causes MS. There are more than 2.3 million people worldwide living with this potentially devastating disease.
Common Symptoms of MS
Because MS affects the brain and spinal cord, nearly every system of the body can be affected.
Some common symptoms of MS include:
- numbness and tingling
- balance probems
- vision problems: blurred vision, double vision, and vision loss
- bowel and bladder problems
- slurred speech
- abnormal sensations, including shock-like feelings, burning, and intense itching
- cognitive difficulties
- coordination challenges
- trouble walking
- partial paralysis
- trouble swallowing
Types of MS
The most common type of MS is known as Relapsing-Remitting MS. This is characterized by flares when disease activity causes new or worsening symptoms. Eventually, these symptoms remit at least partially and often completely until the next attack.
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There are also a few different kinds of progressive MS. In Primary Progressive MS, the disease gradually progresses over time without the periods of recovery in between flares. In Secondary Progressive MS, a person who has Relapsing-Remitting MS eventually stops seeing the periods of recovery and begins to experience a gradually decline. In Progressive Relapsing MS, the disease gradually progresses but there are periods of relapse as well.
There is currently no cure for MS but there are a number of treatment options. These include Disease Modifying Drugs that seek to slow down the disease or minimize its severity as well as drugs for the treatment of symptoms.
Many drugs used to treat MS have unwelcome side effects and risks. For the treatment of symptoms, especially, many patients turn to alternative treatment options that have fewer side effects and a lower risk profile. Medical marijuana is perhaps the most promising of these alternative treatments, especially as it is becoming more and more recognized by traditional Western medicine.
How Medical Cannabis Can Help Treat MS Symptoms
Medical cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties.
Inflammation plays an important role in MS. A study published in the journal Future Medicinal Chemistry showed how cannabinoids have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Medical cannabis has antispasmodic properties.
Several studies have shown that medical marijuana can be enormously helpful for the common MS symptom of spasticity. A double-blind study published in the European Journal of Neurology found that cannabis was an effective treatment for MS spasticity. Other studies have supported this.
Medical cannabis has antidepressant properties.
Depression is a common symptom of MS. It can be a symptom of the disease itself as well as a secondary response to dealing with the challenges of the disease. The cannabinoids THC, CBD, and CBC have been shown to be effective antidepressant agents that can help treat depression.
Medical cannabis can help with pain relief.
Nerve pain can be one of the most challenging symptoms of MS to treat as many conventional pain relieving medications don’t help. The MS and Extract of Cannabis trial found medical cannabis to effectively treat pain in MS, among other symptoms.
Medical cannabis is not a cure for MS and it cannot change the course of the disease but it has the potential to have a hugely positive effect on the experience of the disease. By effectively treating symptoms of the disease without side effects or major risks, medical marijuana can improve quality of life for the MS patient.